We already got a pretty creepy vibe from this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special (with Nick Frost as Santa!) when we saw the first preview. But a new clip gives more insight into just what kind of game Old St. Nick is playing.
We hope you enjoy this encore presentation of the 2009 Tor.com Christmas story “Overtime,” by Charles Stross, which takes place in the Laundry universe.
All bureaucracies obey certain iron laws, and one of the oldest is this: get your seasonal leave booked early, lest you be trampled in the rush.
I broke the rule this year, and now I’m paying the price. It’s not my fault I failed to book my Christmas leave in time—I was in hospital and heavily sedated. But the ruthless cut and thrust of office politics makes no allowance for those who fall in the line of battle: “You should have foreseen your hospitalization and planned around it” said the memo from HR when I complained. They’re quite right, and I’ve made a note to book in advance next time I’m about to be abducted by murderous cultists or enemy spies.
Please enjoy what has fast become a quiet Christmas tradition in the Tor.com offices: the reading of Neil Gaiman’s original story: “I, Cthulhu, or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9’ S, Longitude 126° 43’ W)?”
Cthulhu, they call me. Great Cthulhu.
Nobody can pronounce it right.
Are you writing this down? Every word? Good. Where shall I start—mm?
Very well, then. The beginning. Write this down, Whateley.
Illustration by Scott Brundage. Merry Christmas! May your holidays be free of overwhelming terror.
A quick note: We’ll be posting at a reduced rate over the next week, but we’ll still be offering up great original material. Fans of Doctor Who and Sherlock in particular should keep an eye on us!
Sometimes we need a little scare in our Christmas. Enjoy this terrifying reading from the terrifying Christopher Lee of the terrifying poem “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” from the terrifyingly charming movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Pleasant dreams. Santa’s on his way.
R. O. Blechman CBS spot: Christmas with all the charm you would expect from Mr. Blechman. (1:03 minutes)
The Legend of the Turning Stone: A creepy Christmas tale. (6:38 minutes)
Frosty the Snowman: Oddly manic and sweet. From UPA, as so many good animated shorts are. (2:41 minutes)
He sees you when you’re sleeping. The Krampus that is. You all know who the Krampus is, right? That diabolical figure covered in black fur, with horns like a goat, cloven hooves and a long red tongue? You better watch out. The Krampus is the legendary Christmas counterpart to Saint Nicholas, who punishes the naughty children while Nick gives the good ones gifts. Sure, he didn’t really make the trip across the pond, but over in Europe he was and still is a popular part of the holiday season. You better not cry, you better not pout. The spooky figure dragging rusty chains who snatches up bad children, swatting the naughty with birch switches, stuffing the worst in his sack to carry off.
Lots of shows decide they need a little Christmas come December, but they’re not quite sure how to do it. Do you talk about the big Jesus-shaped elephant in the room? Do you just focus on Santa? Do you, I don’t know, cast Juliana Hatfield as an angel or make miracles happen on Walker, Texas Ranger?
This late-December urge becomes extra fun when sci-fi shows try it — they don’t actually want to deal with the religious aspect of Christmas, but they still have to find a way to explain Santa and presents (and maybe just a dash of Christianity) to aliens who are already confused enough just trying to deal with humans. So most of them fall back on humans teaching aliens about “goodwill” or “being kind to others.” This leads to some amazing moments, as we’ll see.
If I had a pet reindeer, or any kind of creature that resembled a fawn or Bambi-style animal, I’d name it Dickens. Come on. How adorable would it be to have a little pet deer named Dickens? Here Dickens! Come have a sugar cube! That’s a good little Dickens. What’s your favorite story? What’s that you say, “A Christmas Carol?” Well, I don’t feel like reading to you, because you’re a little deer, so let’s watch a movie or a TV special instead. Whatyda say?
And then, as a gift to Dickens, I would have to compile a list of movie and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens’s awesome book—A Christmas Carol—and I’d want those adaptations to be somehow a little bit different from their source material, because deers like stuff that’s new.
What are the best non-traditional versions of A Christmas Carol? These.
It’s sappy holiday story time! Are you ready? I’m ready….
So, Christmas at my house has always been a decidedly secular affair. In that way, I’m no different from a good portion of North America. My parents and I always loved decorating our tree, drinking cocoa, putting out the cookies and such, but the only time we ever arrived at a Christmas mass it was to hear my piano teacher play the service. I went to see one live nativity display as a teen because a friend’s cousin was playing one of the Wise Men. The only Jesus Christ I was listening to was probably the Superstar kind.
Santa Claus, however, was another matter entirely.
Tuck looked at the red-and-white pile on the ground at his feet and realized for the first time what it really was: a dead Santa.
–The Stupidest Angel
Ok, I’m cheating just the tiniest bit here on the annual children’s Christmas book post. The Stupidest Angel is most definitely not a children’s story (warnings for adult situations, language, zombies who want to eat brains and then go to IKEA, and rather mean things said about Santa, squirrel porn and perfectly innocent elephant seals). It also can’t exactly be called a classic yet given that it was only published back in 2004. But, it is a Christmas book, and frankly I needed something that took a slightly more cynical take on the holiday season this year even if that meant zombies, so, Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel it is.
When I say A Muppet Christmas Carol is sweet, I don’t only mean the movie is heartwarming and saccharine. It’s those things, too, but it’s also a film that delivers a uniquely badass adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ridiculously famous novella.
Darker and less goofy than other Muppet flicks, A Muppet Christmas Carol manages to capture the phantasmagorical texture of the source material while at the same time turning out a bonafide family film, though not necessarily a kid’s movie. While you might read a child A Christmas Carol aloud, you probably wouldn’t give them the original novella for them to read on their own. And it’s the same with this movie. Despite its Hallmark Card exterior, A Muppet Christmas Carol might be the most adult of the Muppet films.
Jim Henson’s work has been an important part of my life, from Sesame Street to the Fraggles and beyond. It’s no surprise, then, that he also created my favorite holiday movie of all time — Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.
Did you know that in addition to fighting Nazis, knowing everything about Lord of the Rings, and changing his own Dracula dialogue because he didn't like it, Christopher Lee has also released heavy metal music about the Holy Roman Emperor Charlmagne? (Note: Everything listed above is entirely true. We're not being cute because no one is allowed to be cute about Christopher Lee.)
Well, Saruman is back this year to wish us a very merry holiday with his new metal track, “Jingle Hell.” (Note: We are still entirely serious.)
Several years ago around this time, I wrote a post about some of my favorite bizarro holiday specials to help ring in our very first Tor.com Cthulhumas/Life Day/Krampusnacht/Solstice celebration. While a lot has changed since 2008, my abiding love of strange and unusual holiday-inspired lunacy is as strong as ever, so please enjoy this updated guide to some classic (or should-be classic) yuletide entertainment….
If you’re going to watch a heart-string tugging Christmas special with children on or around the holidays, why you’re not watching the 1966 animated adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is beyond me. Hell, I used to babysit for twins who liked watching it in the middle of August, and why not? The original 1957 picture book and the ‘66 cartoon version are genius and showcase Theodore Geisel at possibly the tippy-top of his powers. Not only does The Grinch story make Christmas vaguely secular with a snap of its fingers, it does so without offending anyone and with silly amounts of originality.
But just what are the Whos down in Whoville? Are they human? What is the Grinch? What’s the connection between these Whos and the Whos living on the speck-of-dust planet in Horton Hears a Who!? Are those Whos who Horton heard the same species of Whos of which Cyndi Lou Who (who was not more than two) is a member?
Shakespeare talks about it, Andy Williams talks about it, even Washington Irving talks about it, so let’s admit it, ghost stories are winter’s tales. Although Hanukah has a touch of the supernatural about it, Christmas, which is pretty much a non-supernatural event in the Gospels (except for the whole star business) has somehow become the province of ghosts.
As Jerome K. Jerome said, “It is always Christmas Eve, in a ghost story.” Henry James’ Turn of the Screw is set at Christmas, as is Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, and the master of the form, M.R. James, always took a break from wrestling with the boys to tell his ghost stories at Christmas. But the man who made the Christmas ghost story literary is Charles Dickens, whose most famous work, A Christmas Carol, was one of the first great disasters in self-publishing, the novella that pretty much invented modern Christmas, and a sneaky protest book disguised as a dose of good cheer.
Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s weekly column dedicated to news and new releases from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
If we consider the last couple of columns the calm, this edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus heralds something of a storm. Not of news, necessarily—though I do have a few interesting items for you—but rather regarding this week’s new releases, which include a fascinating new novel from Pax Britannia’s Al Ewing, historical horror from Sarah Pinborough’s pen, a ghost story by psychological crime writer Sophie Hannah, The Radley’s Matt Haig on humans, Alison Littlewood’s investigation of fairy tales and what I’m going to call a lycanpocalypse care of Benjamin Percy.
Along with bringing the world ghosts, time travel, suggestions of alternate universes, and classic lines, A Christmas Carol also permanently created another holiday tradition: the lone grumpy figure who refuses to be happy on Christmas. In 2010 Steven Moffat brazenly and successfully reinvented A Christmas Carol with that year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, titled “A Christmas Carol.” This year, instead of making a new character into the Scrooge of this story, the bah-humbugs are coming from the Doctor himself. But it’s not spirits from the past, present, or future that will save the soul of the character and the show. Instead, it’s Jenna-Louise Coleman!
Back in 2010 we asked a bunch of folks, like Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Graham Sleight, and many more to celebrate their favorite Doctor during our Twelve Doctors of Christmas event! Read what they had to say.
Since then we’ve never stopped talking about the Doctor and his adventures, and we’ve watched gleefully as the rest of the world found out what Doctor Who fans already knew... the very reason the show has lasted 50 years: It’s just the most fun, accepting sci-fi out there.
Take a look through our Doctor Who article line-up, including theories on his regeneration patterns, who might return for the 50th anniversary, and so much more. Merry Christmas!